LEST WE FORGET
Flying Officer Vernon James HEDLEY
Service No: 409303
Born: Woodville SA, 20 September 1920
Enlisted in the RAAF: 15 August 914 (at Melbourne VIC)
Unit: No. 460 Squadron, RAF Station Binbrook, Lincolnshire
Died: Ground Operations (Shot evading capture) (from the loss of No. 460 Squadron Lancaster aircraft PB816 on 16 March 1945), Germany, 16 March 1945, Aged 24 Years
Buried: Durnbach War Cemetery, Bad Tolz, Bayern, Germany
CWGC Additional Information: Son of James Wilson Hedley and Veronica McIndoe Hedley, of Caulfield, Victoria, Australia
Roll of Honour: Caulfield VIC
Remembered: Panel 107, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
In south-eastern Germany, but without direct relevance to the Russian campaign, Bomber Command on 16th-17th March attacked both Nuremberg (for the eighth time) and Wurzburg (for the first time). Sixteen RAAF Lancasters from Binbrook went to Nuremberg and 33 from Waddington bombed Wurzburg, one crew failing to return from each raid; both attacks were successful. These raids in Bavaria were of importance to the transportation plan and reflected Bomber Command opinion that as the Wehrmacht retreated into Germany strategic and tactical threads of the bombing offensive must become more closely interwoven than ever before. Natural selection and the factor that heavier bomb-loads could be carried on shorter journeys had already influenced Harris, however, in seizing the opportunity of improving weather during March to strike with unprecedented fury at transportation targets on the Western front, both by night and day.
Extract from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Over Europe 1944-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1963 – Page 422
Lancaster PB816 took off from RAF Binbrook at 1727 hours on the night of 16 March 1945 to bomb Nurnberg, Germany. The bomb load was 1 x 4000 lb (pound) (1,800 kg) bomb and various incendiaries. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it did not return to base. Nineteen aircraft from the squadron took part in the raid and of these PB816 failed to return. It was later established that six crew members had been killed and one was a prisoner of War.
The crew members of PB816 were:
Flight Sergeant Kenneth William Binder (431194) (Rear Gunner)
Flying Officer Vernon James Hedley (409303) (Pilot)
Flight Sergeant Alan Webster Halls (429151) (Navigator) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 24 October 1945
Flight Sergeant Milton Keith Jurd (435564) (Mid Upper Gunner)
Sergeant Alick John MacDonald (1567916) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)
Flight Sergeant Morgan James Parry (428877) (Wireless Operator Air)
Flight Sergeant James William Prouse (431468) (Bomb Aimer)
In a later statement Flight Sergeant Halls reported, “At 19,000 feet hit in the bomb bay. A few seconds earlier the Bomb Aimer reported seeing an aircraft below, but no evasive action taken. Aircraft immediately caught fire from ignited incendiaries and went into spin out of control. I was thrown into Bomb Aimer’s compartment with the Flight Engineer and as far as I know no order was given to abandon aircraft. I came back and saw WOP in his seat unconscious and in the centre of the fire. I managed to get to him but unable to move him and he appeared dead. I then placed my chute on and left by the window next to the flight engineer. I did not notice anyone in the pilot’s compartment. The chute opened just before I hit the ground and must have been about 1,000 feet when I left. The aircraft crashed near Neiderstetten. I hid for an hour and then gave myself up as unable to assist myself due to burns and injuries. Did not see any others leave the aircraft”.
Flying Officer Hedley also baled out safely and was shot by a German member of the home guard. It appears that Hedley was not captured and that the German who shot him stated that he did so when Hedley was still endeavouring to evade capture and after he had ignored a command to surrender.
No. 467 Squadron lost Lancaster PD231 (Flying Officer Edwin William Thomas (410180) (Pilot)) in the attack on Wurzburg on 16 March 1946.
Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records (RAAF Casualty Information compiled by Alan Storr (409804))
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 166/17/1083
Firkins, P. C. (Peter Charles) (441386) Strike and Return, Westward Ho Publishing City Beach WA, 1985